February 27, 2013
College investigates explosion
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland workers begin pulling uprooted bricks Tuesday afternoon at the entrance to Clark Hall. An electrical explosion in the basement caused the bricks to be pushed up. Students returned to the building Tuesday afternoon.
Life returned to normal Tuesday at SUNY Cortland, as utility crews restored power to Clark Hall, a residence hall where an underground explosion knocked out electricity Monday afternoon.
The power outage affected nine buildings: six residence halls, Cornish and Van Hoesen classroom buildings and Neubig Hall, a building with a dining hall and the college store.
Clark Hall was open for students to move back in during Tuesday afternoon, after a four-ton generator from the state Office of Emergency Management was placed behind the building and connected to its system.
Power to the other five residence halls was restored Monday afternoon after utility workers rerouted power lines. They were Hayes, Hendrick, Whitaker, Randall and Fitzgerald halls.
Workers used a manhole outside Clark Hall’s Neubig Road entrance to climb down into the room where the explosion originated just before 1 p.m. Monday, forcing bricks up.
Power was restored to the building itself but not to the basement rooms where the explosion occurred. That area will remain cut off from the grid while workers determine the cause and how to fix the damage.
The explosion’s cause was still listed as electrical. College officials said they hope to have an electrical contractor fix the problem over the weekend. Power will be cut to the nine buildings during that time, which has not been announced.
Neubig Road was open for two-way traffic this morning.
Gregory Sharer, vice president for student affairs, said Clark Hall holds 178 students, all of whom had to stay somewhere else Monday night. About 50 of them accepted SUNY Cortland’s offer of a hotel room, at the college’s expense, he said.
Neubig Hall’s dining hall, closed Monday evening and most of Tuesday because the building did not have power, was open for dinner Tuesday evening. Cornish and Van Hoesen halls had classes on Tuesday.
Steven Dangler, SUNY Cortland university police chief, said the generator was arranged by Thomas McCartney, regional director for the Office of Emergency Management in Binghamton.
Sharer and Dangler said the college has protocols for all sorts of emergencies but each situation is different. They thought the students and staff adjusted well to the power outage.
Dangler said Clark Hall had to be inspected by fire safety personnel from the state, looking for the presence of gases, before students could return to their rooms. He said the Cortland Fire Department was very helpful throughout the outage.
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